Can a lineup that lost Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp actually be better? Because that’s what the Los Angeles Dodgers have done.
Gone is the speed that was Gordon and the power bats that were Ramirez and Kemp, but overall the Dodgers made their lineup deeper and defense-oriented. We take a look at the projected starting lineup for 2015:
Yasmani Grandal, C
The Dodgers essentially got nothing offensively from the catcher position in 2014, A.J. Ellis suffered his worst season ever, while Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball. In the trade that sent Kemp to the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers acquired a switch-hitting catcher who is praised for pitch-framing. Grandal hit 15 home runs in 2014, despite being limited by his knee.
Grandal is an offensive upgrade over Ellis, is better by a large margin in terms of pitch-framing metrics, but has struggled developing a rapport with a pitching staff. If he is 100 percent recovered from his knee and he can build relationships with the pitchers, Grandal will see 80 percent of the playing time.
The Dodgers can hope to see a .260 average with double digit home runs from the Cuban-born catcher.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
The most consistent bat in the Dodgers lineup since he was acquired in 2012, Gonzalez enjoyed a fine year in 2014. He led the league in RBIs, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove. Not much will change with the 32-year-old this year. He will be penciled in at first base and in the middle of the order for pretty much every game.
There’s not much to say about Gonzalez other than count on his for a .275 average, 25+ double, 20+ home runs and 90+ RBIs.
Howie Kendrick, 2B
After seeing him produce for their Southern California neighbors, the Dodgers acquired Kendrick this winter in the final year of his contract. Kendrick will replace Gordon, who was an All-Star last season who stole 64 bases. While Kendrick won’t steal 60+ bases, he will give the Dodgers a steady presence in the lineup and at second base.
Since being called up in 2006, the lowest batting average the former All-Star has finished with is .279 in 2010. Kendrick can hit anywhere in the lineup and should be counted on for at least a .285 batting average and 70+ RBIs. He also is a solid defender and a great clubhouse guy.
The Dodgers will be happy with Kendrick and he should be happier in Los Angeles.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Fourteen years in the big leagues and 14 years with the Philadelphia Phillies for Jimmy Rollins…until now. Rollins will be the shortstop for the Dodgers, a team he grew up despising. The veteran shortstop will be the leadoff man in the lineup, and one of the clubhouse leaders.
As for production, Rollins still bopped 17 home runs last season and stole 28 bases. He had no looks of slowing down this spring and could enjoy a strong year with a new team. Even without his offense, Rollins provided an upgrade at shortstop by virtue of his glove. Dodger pitchers should have no concerns pitching with him at shortstop.
Juan Uribe, 3B
The 36-year-old enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2014, despite missing some time with injuries. Uribe’s defense at third base is top-notch and his presence in the clubhouse is even better. After two poor seasons with the Dodgers, the veteran third baseman has turned things around with two solid years in Los Angeles.
While age is likely to catch up to Uribe, the Dodgers are well prepared for a bit of a fall off with Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero. Uribe will get plenty of days off throughout the season to be rested for the stretch run. The Dodgers won’t be counting on him to replicate his 2014 numbers, but if he can provide some clutch hitting down in the lineup, it will be more than enough.
Carl Crawford, LF
Crawford enjoyed a nice season in 2014, although he did miss a few games due to injury. The former All-Star is once again expected to take a bulk of the starts in left field, possibly splitting time with Scott Van Slyke. He’s a bit of a liability on defense with his awkward routes and less-than-powerful throwing arm, but he gets the job done.
The 33-year-old has said he feels healthy this spring and is looking to be more active on the basepaths. He stole 23 bases last season and could be looking to eclipse 30 for the first time since 2010. Crawford is a streaky hitter, who can ride a hot streak for a long period once he finds it. He will need to do that in order to hold off Van Slyke and Andre Ethier.
Joc Pederson, CF
Well, he’s finally getting the job. After knocking on the door the past two years, Pederson is the starting center fielder after a strong spring in which he hit .338 with six home runs. His defense has always been exceptional, and if he can continue what he did in spring at the plate then the Dodgers will have made the right choice.
Pederson hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases in Triple-A last year, but it’s not fair to expect that of him in the Majors. A .260+ average with double digits in both categories would satisfy enough to warrant the spot. He will be the first natural center fielder in a while for the Dodgers.
Yasiel Puig, RF
Since being called up in 2013, Yasiel Puig has been the most exciting player in Los Angeles and one of the most hated players everywhere else. Not much has changed going into 2015 on that front, but a lot has changed in terms of what the Dodgers need from Puig. With Kemp and Ramirez gone, the team needs Puig to continue his development and take that extra step into MVP candidate.
Puig has done well in his first two seasons, but has fell into bad slumps that seem to drag on. Every player will have his slumps, it’s just how long it takes you to recover. If Puig can find that consistency to go along with his all-out effort, then the Dodgers will be just fine. Also, Puig is back in right field and should continue to make dazzling plays and keep runners at bay with his arm.
Dodgers 2015 Fan Fest – Yasmani Grandal